Mortality audit of the Finnish cervical cancer screening program



Incidence-based evaluations of cervical cancer screening programs have suggested age-specific impacts and there is uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of screening outside the ages of 30–60 years. We audited the screening histories of cervical cancer deaths and conducted a case-control evaluation of the effectiveness of organized screening in different ages with mortality as outcome. We included all 506 cervical cancer deaths in Finland in 2000–2009 due to cancers diagnosed in 1990 or later, and 3,036 controls matched by age at diagnosis to the cases. Squamous cell carcinoma constituted 59% of the cases, adenocarcinomas 29%, and the remaining 12% were other specified and unspecified cervical malignancies. Most deaths (54%) were due to cancers diagnosed more than 5 years after last screening invitation, 24% were diagnosed among nonattenders and only 14% of deaths occurred among women who had attended invitational screening. The risk reduction associated with attending a single program screen at an age below 40 was nonsignificant (OR 0.70; 95% CI 0.33–1.48), while clear risk reductions were observed after screening at the age of 40–54 (OR 0.33; CI 0.20–0.56) and 55–69 (OR 0.29; CI 0.16–0.54). This study also provides some indication of a long-lasting additional effect of screening at the age of 65. Possible avenues for improving the effectiveness of the Finnish screening program include efforts to increase attendance and an extension of the target ages to include 65-to 69-year-old women. The potential benefit of increasing the sensitivity of the screening test or shortening the screening interval is smaller.